Agile Methods to Innovate Business ModelsBy Jan Hogewoning | Fri, 10/02/2020 - 12:50
Q: What impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had on the demand for your services?
A: I would say there is concern in many sectors because the pandemic has accelerated processes. Many changes companies formerly wanted to do slowly now have to be done immediately. The pandemic has shown that business models become outdated. Some companies need to innovate only to improve on their sales, while others need to do so because they simply have no other way to generate revenues. The important part is to prepare for what is coming after the crisis. Companies have two motivations to change. One group is always transforming and looking for services like ours. The other is looking to transform out of fear of losing their business. Ultimately, both enter the same path of transformation.
There are three ways to foster growth: raise prices, which is not always possible with your product offering, find new markets or develop new products. The last two represent fertile territory for us because one of our activities is to develop new products and services for companies. We design not just new products but also help design the business model that allows companies to enter new markets. Today’s entry into markets is not just physical but also digital. What differentiates us from digital marketing agencies is that we are not focused on the digital part but on the company strategy. We extrapolate our design of products and business models to new digital channels to create new business lines for clients. It is important to note that not all change we work on is digital. We need to be able to address the needs of companies both in the digital and the physical world.
Q: What philosophies do you apply in your consulting?
A: We are focused on what is known as agile methods. The primary methods are design thinking, lean startup, scrums, open innovation and customer development. These agile methods are the basis of practically all our projects. Depending on the client, we will create a hybrid of different methods for them. The scrum method, to provide a bit more detail, is a software-based agile method that allows interdisciplinary teams to track how their projects are advancing in clusters of short periods of time. This ensures that no part of the project is left behind and that completion is reached in a timely manner.
Q: How do you implement these models?
A: We have specially prepared teams that work on their implementation. For us, it is not just about the creation of something new but also about its implementation. This is why we work with a team from the client’s company that works with our teams to complete the adoption of the model. The idea is that one part of our client’s organization continues to work business as usual, while another section works with new projects. We do not leave a client until all teams inside the company can operate the new model. Usually, we handle a portfolio of various projects for a single client, with a different team per project.
Q: What if an executive does not want to accept change?
A: There is no solution for that. If companies do not know how to, we show them. But if they do not want to, we cannot do anything. A prerequisite to contracting our services is that at least the executive level of a company is open to change. Transformation projects are decided at the level of the CEO. Often, companies are aware of their problems and challenges. We help them prioritize these to see what is most important. Then we define the strategy and finally the method to implement change.
Q: What are other opportunities do you see with digital consultations?
A: The remote working reality brought by the pandemic has pushed us to redesign our operational model. We have had to buy platforms to allow real-time interaction with our clients. We work with visual canvasses to convey concepts. We have a license for a software called Million, which fits these needs. Having made these transitions in a short time, we have not seen any loss of projects or billing.
Q: Have you seen competition increase as your services have migrated, at least for now, to the digital space?
A: No. It is true that there are many companies that offer digital services but there are few that offer strategy consulting, let alone with the agile methods we apply. This makes us a niche company. We are not a niche company because of our activities in a particular sector but because we work with particular methodologies to shape a company’s strategy. There are very few companies like us in Latin America, and in Mexico there are no more than five. Our company has an alliance with the strategy consulting company Nestor & Co. in Spain and the strategy consulting company Innbox in El Salvador. We also have an office in Guatemala. Together, we can serve clients in Mexico, Central America and parts of South America.
Q: In which sectors are you most active?
A: We are open to any sector. However, the primary sectors we are in right now are publishing, construction, foodstuffs, metalworking, the steel industry, training and education. Our signature projects this year are with clients from a food company in northern Mexico called Promanuez, the bookstore chain Librerias Gandhi, the auto parts company DAI, the Steel Industrial company Pok, the Yucatan-based construction company Grupo Trivasa and the plastics company Termoencogibles in El Salvador. At the moment, Central America represents about 30 percent of our billing and growing our presence there is a big priority for this year. We expect to acquire several new projects in this region this year and next year, as well as a few more in South America.
Q: You also provide e-training. How has this product grown over the last few months?
A: We provide both digital training and on-site training. Over the past few months, we have intensified the frequency of trainings. However, the material has not changed, we still handle the same topics as before. While the majority of our trainings are B2B, we are also working on B2C digital trainings. This is still in a pilot phase. Launching our e-trainings for more clients is a primary priority for this year.
Idearia Lab is a strategy consulting firm that employs agile methods to help companies develop new products and business models. The firm has clients in Mexico, Central America and parts of South America, including Peru and Colombia